BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – A sold-out Saturday school benefit will jump start community support for a much-needed renovation of the Bronxville School Auditorium and publicly kickoff the anticipated three-year wait to use the remodeled new facility.
“There is a tremendous amount of momentum to get this done and the community recognizes the impact of this project,” said School PTA President Nina Evison of the swift sale of available tickets.
“It’s the largest gathering place for the community, for graduations, concerts, plays and VFW gatherings,” added Priscilla Newman, who co-chairs the fundraising event with Louise Parzick. “It’s really a project that is appealing to the whole community as it will provide them an updated space.”
The visibly damaged theater, whose entire balcony has been closed the past year due to safety code concerns, has not had a structural update in more than 50 years and the 1990 face lift that replaced carpeting and spruced up seats is showing wear, school officials said.
Peeling paint, water-streaks from years of leaks and drips and bubbles on aging wall plaster all were visible during a recent visit and gave the spacious and classically-designed theater a dingy appearance. The space lacks air conditioning, making late-spring and summer events, such as graduations, a “hot, sweaty mess,” Evison said.
“It’s a gorgeous facility and we try to keep it operational and safe, but the envelope of the auditorium has been the same for decades,” said John Kehoe, assistant school superintendent. “The auditorium is very well utilized as part of the education process and we feel the facility needs to be functional for all three schools – elementary, middle and high – and for after-hour use by the community.”
The hall is part of the original school building constructed in the 1920s. The estimated $7.5 million restoration will add a lobby to the side of the 500-plus seat theater and air conditioning, create more space between rows, improve acoustics, upgrade dated production electronics, provide better access to behind-stage classrooms and upgrade the seats and flooring, school officials have said.
“It would be a whole different look that the overall community will benefit from, as well as the school itself,” Kehoe said.
The cost of the work will be paid for via private and public initiatives, including earmarked capital project money from the school’s budget, grants from the school foundation, PTA contributions and an expected bond issue, Kehoe said. He estimated an 18- to 24-month process to initiate work on the project and an additional year for the construction, during which the space would be unusable.
Community support is additionally evidenced by the 11 event sponsors, Newman said, and the return of two former students to perform at the theater-themed dinner, dance and auction occasion that will be hosted by area-resident and MSNBC anchor Alex Witt. While tickets are unavailable, the PTA is accepting donations via its website at http://www.bronxvillebenefit2012.com/EventTicketPricing.html.